When we put Lady to sleep, the vet cautioned us that Elanor would grieve for Lady in her own way, and that we should be prepared for it. He suggested we pick up The 10th Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst as a good read aloud to help talk to Elanor about what had happened to Elanor.
This book is about a little boy whose cat has just died. He is grief stricken and his mother suggests he come up with a list of 10 good things he can say about Barney at Barney’s funeral in the backyard. But he can only come up with 9. There is a conversation with a friend of his who tries to comfort him by telling him that Barney is in heaven. But, as is developmentally appropriate for a 7/8 year old, he is concrete and finds the abstract notion of heaven difficult to accept. His father tells him that we can’t know what happens after death. But he explains that Barney’s body is helping to nourish the tree that it is buried beneath, and in helping the tree grow (I’m paraphrasing here) he’ll be with us forever or something to that effect. And the little boy decides that that (the nourishing the tree) is the 10th good thing about Barney.
This story is a bit long for a one year old to listen to, and it’s not a board book, so it’s not one that Elanor can turn the pages easily for. The pictures aren’t super bright or amazing museum artwork. But the story is deep, and it’s meaningful, and it helped us talk to Elanor about Lady’s death. It helped us explain why we were so sad. It helped us explain OUR beliefs within the context of “every family has its own beliefs and that’s okay.” And while Elanor isn’t old enough to truly understand the story, it will give us a framework to talk about Lady going forward as well.
So while it is an incredibly sad book and a tough one to read aloud, it definitely deserves a place on the favorite read-aloud list.